All you need to know about Tristan and the Adela BM79

One of the best things about living in Brixham is your proximity to some of the finest fish in the country. Brixham is a fishy place and among the residents, there is none fishier than Tristan Northway, skipper/fisherman, of the Adela BM79, Brixham’s smallest trawler. Tristan made our 2020 lockdown with his daily Facebook bulletins from his trawler and delicious fresh fish on the pontoon at Prince William Quay. Here’s a catch-up on what Tristan and the Adela BM79 are up to now. 

The Adela BM79, a Brixham lockdown hero

Until 2020, I hadn’t heard of Tristan Northway, but a neighbour gave us the heads up that there was a fisherman selling fresh fish, direct to the public, off his boat in Brixham. This sounded too good to be true so I thought I’d take a look on Facebook…

You can imagine my surprise when I logged onto a live stream of Tristan trawling and hauling the catch he was going to sell that day. And so began our lockdown routine of tuning into Tristan’s daily trawls, showing the best of the South Devon coastline with amazing sealife, insights, and a few naughty words that only a fisherman can share – highly addictive viewing! 

And yes, he really was down on the pontoon (complete with socially-distanced queue), selling the fish he had just caught, with an amazing amount of energy for someone who had been at sea since the wee hours of the morning!

The freshest fish in Torbay

Tristan Northway is from a fishing family and has been landing fish in Brixham for over six years and has been a fisherman for more than 20 years. Skipper, first mate, and deckhand Tristan’s fish is no more than three to four hours old when it is ready to buy from the quay. It is impossible to get fish that is anymore fresh unless you get out there and catch it yourself!

Tristan’s bounty includes regulars like: 

  • Plaice
  • Lemon sole
  • Dover sole
  • Mackerel
  • Squid
  • Scallops (which Tristan will happily eat RAW!)
  • Turbot
  • Cuttlefish
  • Edible crab
  • John Dory
  • Spider crabs
  • Lobsters
  • Dogfish (Sweet William)
  • Gunnard
  • Monkfish
  • Bass

Brixham fish from a pro

Tristan’s expertise has been from working on a wide range of fishing boats including beam trawlers, day boats, and scallopers. A sinking as the skipper of the day boat Guyona BM 1 in 2008 did not put him off. He is passionate about the quality of fish that is available in the inshore waters of South Devon and treats his catch with care. Working at a much smaller scale than your typical trawler means that quality comes first, and despite the sacrifices (and risks) that come with working alone, Tristan clearly appreciates the satisfaction that comes with delivering a superior product. 

Low-impact, sustainable fishing

Small inshore boats like the Adela, are much lower impact and fuel-efficient than the industrial bottom trawling the fishing industry is associated with. This excellent documentary on Tristan and his boat by Channel 4 gives great insight into what his work involves: 

Tristan puts his success down to his more free-thinking approach to trawling: 

“I work single-handed and love it. Even when the weather is poor, it is lovely to be out there towing a net, with no boss to answer to, just doing my own thing. I’m not a follower and often go well away from tows that some skippers stick to day after day. And I don’t do four- or five-hour tows; I do three hours at the most, but normally two and a half hours. I want my fish to remain in prime quality, and I might soon look toward direct sales for part of the catch, but most of my fish will still be sold through Brixham Trawler Agents (BTA). Like some other Brixham fishermen, I’m pleased to hear that there might soon be a clock auction at BTA.”


Adela is a fishing boat and fishmongers

When the Adela docks with her catch, she quickly transforms into a quayside fishmongers, complete with a hoisted banner. After hours at sea trawling, hauling and cleaning his catch, Tristan starts his next shift as one of Torbay’s leading fishmongers. 

The Adela’s unique business model sees Tristan selling direct to the public from his boat. The fish is sold as ‘first-sale-fish’, meaning that it is being sold for the first time.  Adela is the only boat that is fully licensed to do this and Tristan is certified and insured for handling his fish. 

You’d never think a fishing trawler could be cute, but somehow, the Adela BM79 manages it

Tristan’s one-man band operates out of the wooden-hulled U10 trawler, the Adela. She’s a perky little blue and white inshore trawler that really stands out in the Brixham fleet. Tristan and Adela go back a long way, having first sailed on her when he was a teen. He purchased it from Steve Baker (an opportunity he couldn’t refuse), finishing his payments in late 2018, and as an owner, he couldn’t be more proud. 

As a hard-working boat, she is well taken care of. A tough nut that started life as a Guernsey potter, Adela boasts buxom features like her huge keel that belies her 9-meter length and a 4-blade prop with a fuel-efficient Mitsubishi engine. Tristan refitted her in 2018 at the Dartside Boat Park in Galmpton (near Brixham) and strives to give her all the TLC he can.

An entrepreneurial vision

It’s great that such a passionate producer has had the drive and determination to see their vision through. Brixham and the wider Torbay community have rallied around Tristan giving him plenty of support and custom. He is a preferred supplier to many local restaurants including The Prince William Waterfront Restaurant & Bar, just a few steps from his berth. 

Tristan also sells his fish via the world-famous Brixham fish market, but it is his Torbay-wide delivery service that has now expanded to ‘up country’ deliveries as far as Coventry where he is making waves. 

Adela BM79 fans can now order their fish online via the official Adela BM79 website, and even join the Brixham Fish Club, which includes VIP videos, recipes, and a 10% discount on all orders. And if like us, you want some Adela BM79 swag, Tristan also sells mugs, T-shirts, hoodies, and even jigsaw puzzles. 

Stay up to date with Tristan and Adela BM79

If you can’t pop down to Brixham Marina to get your fish, you can keep up with the adventures of Tristan and the Adela on Facebook or his YouTube channel. But if you’re local, you need to be eating this delicious fish – caught the way it should be.

Don’t forget to look out for crazy Bob

Tristan’s biggest fan is Bob the seal, that seems to be making a good living in the harbour waters. That grey seal is eating better than you and me!!!!


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